Schools seeing high rate of absenteeism

Peggy Revell

District schools are experiencing higher-than-normal absenteeism as H1N1 and the seasonal ’flu make their rounds.
“Absenteeism related to illness for teachers and support staff [custodians, educational support personnel] has increased during the last week,” Diane Ross, manager of human resources for the Rainy River District School Board, said via e-mail.
“Meanwhile, student absenteeism has increased over the last week, as well,” she reported.
For instance, Ross said 27 percent of board schools reported 10 percent or more student population absent on Oct. 28, which jumped to 80 percent of board schools reporting 10 percent students absent with illness on Nov. 3.
“The absenteeism is primarily related to ’flu-like symptoms,” added Ross, though noting specific testing for H1N1 is not expected from the Northwestern Health Unit or doctors at this time.
Compared to previous years, the number of absent students and employees is higher this year, Ross continued.
“Employees are advised to stay home if they feel sick and have a fever—only return to work when the fever subsides and they feel better,” she said.
Parents also are being asked that children stay home when they are ill, and only return to school when they feel better.
Even if classmates are home sick, the board is recommending students who are well attend school.
“While at school, the children are encouraged to wash their hands frequently with soap and water [or alcohol-based hand sanitizer for secondary school students],” Ross said of precautionary measures being taken in school facilities.
“This virus can spread throughout the community [including schools],” she stressed. “Schools have vigilant cleaning practices throughout all board facilities.”
As for whether or not the public board recommends parents get their children immunized against H1N1, Ross said the board is following all directives of the Northwestern Health Unit.
“We care about the health of both students and staff, and will follow the directives of the Northwestern Health Unit and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care during this pandemic,” Ross vowed.
Updates from the board concerning H1N1, including its pandemic plan, are available online at
The Northwest Catholic District School Board was contacted but no one was available for comment.